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Some scammers are after your personal information or your frequent-flier miles. Others try instead to get money directly out of your bank account. But they don't hack into your bank account. Instead, they trick you into sending them money or voluntarily giving them access to your account. Here are five bank-related scams you need to watch out for.
1. Peer-to-Peer Payment Scams
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services, like Zelle and Venmo, are offered as apps and directly integrated with many bank and credit union accounts. If scammers can convince you to send them money with one of these apps, the transfer may go through almost immediately and can't always be reversed.
The scam can play out in different ways, and scammers may get creative as more news outlets warn people about P2P-based scams. But one common approach is to text or call you and claim to be from your bank or credit union—scammers can even spoof their number to make it look like the call or message is coming from the financial institution.
Similar to legitimate messages, they might tell you that you've been the victim of fraud. But if you respond, the scammers will try to trick you into going through a process that they claim will get you a refund by sending money to yourself. In reality, they're getting you to use the app to quickly transfer money into an account they control.
2. Money Mule Scams
Walk away if you're offered a job that involves depositing money into your account and transferring it to someone else, or if you're asked to do something similar using cashier's checks, cryptocurrencies, debit cards, gift cards or other forms of payment.
While these money mule jobs might be real in the sense that you're paid for the work, you're also helping criminals launder money, which is illegal. Even if you don't realize what you're doing or that you're committing a crime, you could be prosecuted and have to pay a fine or serve jail time.
3. Overpayment Scams
Overpayment scams happen when someone sends you more money than expected—or sends you money you weren't expecting at all—and then asks you to send them back the difference. Often, you're sent the money because you're selling something valuable online, such as a vehicle, and the payment might come as a check, money order or via P2P app.
But the scam can also be part of an employment scam—when someone posts fake job descriptions online to lure victims into applying. The fake company might overpay you an initial bonus and ask for a refund. Or send you a payment and then tell you the job is to "test" a money transfer service and ask you to wire them money.
If you send the scammer any money you'll likely be out of luck, even if you deposited their check or money order and it looks like the amount is in your account. Their payment could still be reversed a few days later, but you might not be able to get the money you sent back.
4. Account Takeover Attacks
Rather than trying to get you to send them money, some scammers might try to take over your online bank account instead. Once they have control, they can initiate a P2P payment, ACH or wire transfer from your account.
To fend off account takeovers, learn how to spot when scammers are calling or texting you and trying to trick you into sharing your credentials. Also, make sure you use a unique password for your online bank accounts—and one that doesn't fit a standard pattern (the company's name plus a number, for example). Otherwise, scammers may be able to log in to your account or guess the password if your information was leaked in a data breach.
You can also try to turn on multifactor authentication (MFA) for your account, which can help keep scammers out even if they have your password. And contact your mobile phone carrier to enable protections against SIM-swapping attacks, which some scammers might be able to use to get past text-message-based MFA systems.
5. Automatic Payment Scams
An unscrupulous company might convince you to share your bank details and then sign you up for a subscription, or get you to sign up for a free trial and then start charging you after the trial ends.
If you notice unusual or unauthorized charges, you should first contact the merchant and ask them to stop and issue a refund. You can also contact your bank and ask it to stop authorizing additional transactions if the charges keep coming through.
Additionally, you may want to regularly check your bank statements or use a budgeting app that can automatically sync bank account transactions to keep an eye on your account. You may be able to get some of your previous payments back, especially if the company lied to you or it was a recent transaction and you can dispute the charge.
See What Scammers Can Learn About You
Scammers might try to learn more about you before reaching out. After all, their scam will be more successful if they can share part of your Social Security number or address to "verify" their authenticity. You can use Experian's free personal privacy scan to see what information shows up on people finder sites, and Experian IdentityWorks℠ subscribers can submit removal requests to these sites.